Sometimes you happen upon a blog post title in your RSS reader (yep I’m old school) that grabs your attention.
Great headlines work.
Unfortunately you then read the post and find it has the consistency of a marshmallow, it’s gooey and melts away pretty quickly and has little substance.
That was my reaction to to David Armano’s post: Does PR have a Future?
Now let me say up front that I’ve read and watched a lot of David’s content and opinions and I’m not questioning that he brings a lot of insight, and value to the whole social media discussion, but this post isn’t one of his high spots.
I thought it was a good excuse to address some of the PR and social media related observations you see expressed regularly.
Social media is increasingly being used across business – yes it is because social media is a set of tools and channels that can add business value in a number of areas including marketing, investor relations, research, sales and customer support.
Social media is the most important thing to business – no, I’m afraid not. It is of course important and useful, but you’ll find that financial management, creating great products, attracting and retaining great staff, providing great services and many other functions remain as important as ever – and arguably more important than some tools and channels. Will we no longer need sales people because ‘we’re all sales people’ and we’ll just put the products up on Facebook? Really?
Marketing/PR is dead, dying or going away – are you mad? Yes social media provides a great human interface to a company, yes it’s a powerful set of tools to reach and engage with people, but guess what, we still need people focused on the strategic imperatives of an organization, we still need people thinking beyond 140 characters. When someone has an issue, what will they do? Will it be a great experience to send a random tweet in the hope it reaches someone who can help them? Really?
Everyone is a spokesperson – Firstly, I really marvel at how we make comments that ‘each employee becomes a representative of the company every time they engage in public’ like this is something new. It’s not. Of course social media amplifies the impact, but it’s not a eureka moment. It presents opportunities and challenges for employees and companies, but how does it negate the need for professional communicators? Is this the transformation of product planning to an infinite number of employees in a room banging away on social media?
Businesses are becoming more social and rigid job descriptions will go away – OK businesses are becoming more social, but do we really think that everyone will move into a mass of generalist roles where we spend some of our day doing different jobs? How do we think that’s manageable? How do we think that’s a great idea? Why do we think that social media tools outweigh the value of real world experience, insight and knowledge? It doesn’t.
David closes by saying:
If "everyone" is a spokesperson to some degree—does public relations cease to exist? It’s probably not that simple since the reality is that "communications" will not end up as a free for all activity, but as something which evolves into more than just communicating but also interacting. In my mind—the key is relationships. Manage the relationships between all critical stakeholders who can make or break your business, and you hold the key to a more sustainable way of doing business. Sound like PR?
He’s right no it’s not that simple. There won’t be a free for all. And yes PR is about managing relationships, it’s also about communications, it’s about problem solving, it’s about strategy, it’s about hard decisions, it’s about many things beyond using tools.
Here’s an idea. Why don’t we focus the discussion on how social media enhances an organization rather than trying to create doomsday scenarios which frankly aren’t based on any insight into how a business works, and shows a complete disrespect for the knowledge, skills and insights of a whole cabal of professional people beyond PR.
Pithy phrases and throwaway opinions don’t move the exploration of social media forward, they just reduce it’s credibility.
But of course, that’s just my opinion and your mileage may vary.